Joanna, wife of Chuza

 Soon afterwards he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. The twelve were with him, as well as some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their resources.

Luke 8 : 1 - 3

This revealing passage from Luke shows that as Jesus travelled from village to town in Galilee he was accompanied by a small crowd of followers including several women. Some of them had independent means and were able to provide the resources such a group would need for buying food and paying for accommodation. Judas is elsewhere described as being the purse bearer in charge of funds. 

Those Luke names are described as having been healed of ailments one of them being Joanna, the wife of Chuza, a manager in Herod Antipas' court at Tiberias which he built on the west coast of the Sea of Gaililee. Antipas was one of Herod the Great's sons whom Jesus may have described as 'a reed blowing in the wind'.

Those disciples who travelled with Jesus on his missionary journeys were later called apostles because they could speak about Jesus and his teachings from personal experience.

Tiberius in the 1920's

Al-Khazneh in Petra, Nabatea.

Believed to be the burial place of Phasaelis' father King Aretas IV.

While JOANNA is a Jewish  name CHUZA is Nabatean - he was from the kingdom of Nabatea which lay to the south of Jerusalem. The daughter of the king of Nabatea, Princess Phasaelis, married Herod Antipas and when moving to Tiberias must have brought her own courtiers probably including a household manager named Chuza. Being a senior manager in the royal court at Tiberius Chuza will have been a man of standing and able to marry into a good Jewish family. 

When Antipas planned to marry Herodias, his brother's wife, Phasaelis fled back to Nabatea and her father ARETAS IV. Adding to other disputes between the two rulers meant war broke out and Anitpas' army suffered a humiliating defeat. Under such circumstance it is most likely that Chuza would have returned with his mistress to Petra thus giving Joanna the freedom to become a follower of Jesus.

John the Baptist was critical of Antipas' marriage to Herodias which led to his execution as described in the gospels.

We can only imagine how Joanna first came across the Lord Jesus. In these days  the Jewish people were deeply divided. There was a large peasant class suffering from debt, unemployment, loss of family farms and regular food shortages; a small ruling elite with loyalties to Rome, the Herods, the Temple, and their own self interest; several religious factions such as the Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, and priests; and a growing number of Zealots willing and waiting to take up arms. Today we understand that the trauma of living under such violence and uncertainty produces all kinds of physical, emotional and mental health problems all of which are depicted in the gospels. The crowds that flocked to Jesus are described as being 'worried and helpless like sheep without a shepherd'; no wonder much of the troubles were described as 'demons and evil spirits'. 

Perhaps Joanna was one of those who went out to the villages around the Sea of Galilee to see and hear Jesus and heard his promise -

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens,

and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me;

for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11 : 28 - 30

 

 

 

 

 

The Sea of Galilee

At the close of his letter to the Christian communities in Rome Paul wrote -

 

Greet Andronicus and Junia, my countrymen and my 

fellow prisoners, who are of note among the apostles,

who also were in Christ before me.

Romans 16 : 7

He refers to JUNIA whom he describes as 'of note among the apostles'. The term APOSTLE was used of those disciples who had travelled with Jesus around the towns and villages and who were living witnesses to his deeds and teachings. It is a Roman name and we know that Jews who went to Rome often adopted Roman versions of their Jewish name. Both Richard J. Bauckham and Ben Witherington III, prominent New Testament scholars, believe that Junia and Joanna may be the same disciple mentioned by Luke -  the wife of Chuza. She travelled with Jesus around Galilee, provided for the disciples out of her personal resources, is mentioned as one of the woman who went to anoint Jesus body and found the empty tomb, and was among those who testified to seeing the risen Jesus. So Joanna would certainly fit the description of being of 'note among the apostles'.